We all know the saying: “If you’re young and conservative you have no heart; If you’re old and liberal you have no money.” Millennials are not doing some of the things that previous generations of young people used to do – they (virtually) don’t get married, they don’t buy houses, apartments, or cars and they don’t save any money. We can reasonably blame all this on their paltry incomes.
If I were 25, single, and had few prospects with respect to marriage or significant income then I too would be in favor of high marginal tax rates, free education and free health care. It’s all free to me because I don’t pay taxes. If house prices fall – great, maybe then I could buy one. If the stock market falls -whatever.
The young me would hate big corporations because they are devoted to finding the cheapest workers in the world, not providing me with training or a career path. That’s why I only stay at a job for 2 years max. Loyalty is so last-century. This economic system doesn’t invest in me so I don’t feel invested in it. What’s wrong with socialism anyway? Isn’t that what they have in those nordic utopias?
Bernie may have virtually no foreign policy ideas but my millennial self doesn’t read newspapers online or off. I know nothing of international affairs. I read Twitter and follow celebrities through social media. I sometimes read news headlines but never an actual article. I don’t read books, I play computer games.
It makes sense that when you destroy the feedback loop between unemployment and wage growth, you also destroy the workers engagement with the old system that put workers in the middle class – fifty years ago.
The Repubs have a similar problem but their answer is to double down on the same system. Like a religious fundamentalist they assert that the problem with capitalism is that we haven’t been devout enough. We have drifted toward socialism and lost our way. If we just close our eyes and pretend it’s 1960 then everything will be fine. This argument will never succeed with Millennials who relate to 1960 as much as they do to 1860, (apparently) social media doesn’t include much history. I’ m happy to see economic fundamentalism fail on both sides but both sides need to see that unfree trade has rotted the ship for young workers/voters. It has exploded income inequality so it’s easy to find wealthy political patrons but very hard to appeal and relate to voters unless you go outside normal boundaries.
This is an old story with a new extreme twist. It’s actually very European. What made us different was our ever growing middle class It made political extremism inappropriate. When you get radical extremes in income you should expect to see extremes in political choices.